Friday 18 May 2018

Last day of the week

It shouldn’t come as a surprise by now but time really does fly up here.  It seems minutes ago that we landed with our first clients of the season and were faced with a very high river. 

The ice break date was about perfect but warmer temperatures than we would expect in early May led to all of the snow in the tundra melting into the river over just a few days rather than just a few weeks.
Ken L with a cracker from Upper Sviats
It is difficult to tell as there are so many ways to measure the river but when I look out of the office here, I would reckon that the river beside the camp has fallen by about 15 feet over this week – things really do happen quickly in the Russian summer.

Robin M on Beach
All of which has led to an improving situation day by day and I had hoped that yesterday would be the first day that Lower would really get in amongst the fish.  It didn’t happen quite like that although I am not sure why.  We saw plenty of fish and an awful lot were hooked but in the end only 20 were put in the record book.  Jonathan B had 6 of those whilst Tim T had 5 for his morning session and then called it quits on the basis that 5 was enough for a day.

Jonathan B on the beginnings of Bear Island
I went up to Middle Varzuga for dinner and found a team reveling in the conditions.  They had landed 71 for their day taking them comfortably over the 300 mark for the week – 400 is the target for today.   Brian M had a stunning day landing 15 fish with 8 from Peartiha and 7 from Birthday. 

A happy team at Middle
Oddly, not many fish are being caught from the home pool so practically all of the fish that have been recorded have been in “office hours”.  I suspect it is still a bit high and lower water should bring Generator and Bear into order.

Andrew T with yet another for his week
It is a very warm and very bright day today but everyone is determined to make the most of the last day and breakfast was a pretty short affair.  No blog tomorrow as we fly to Murmansk very early but I will round up all of the scores on Sunday.

Charlie White

Thursday 17 May 2018

Kitza set up

Yesterday was very warm and very bright – perfect flying conditions if not quite so conducive to fishing.

We flew over to Kitza to start setting up the camp over there.  Loading up the helicopter looked as if we were trying to resupply Ikea and a huge supermarket.  Table cloths and cushions jostled for space with mustard and tomato ketchup alongside satellite phones, boat engine parts, vodka and bananas! 

Kitza camp
Somehow we got it all in and flew the short distance to see our old friends at Kitza.  We were treated to stunning views of the White Sea and when we landed, it was no surprise to see a very high river.  It will drop as quickly as it has here and Ura, the head guide, was unusually upbeat about our chances for the coming week.

Looking upstream from the camp
On returning back to Lower Varzuga it was encouraging to hear that they had been catching fish and a final score of 24 was very much the right direction we want to be heading in.  Richard M landed his first ever salmon on Tuesday and went on to land 6 more yesterday, a great effort.

Sergei and Ken L on Beach
Most of the fish were caught at the very bottom of our beat but Bill Drury wanted to see if some of the smaller “pots” where now producing and 3 fish in 20 minutes (not counted in the official scores) proved that there were fish all the way up to Bearlets. 

Andrew T on Generator
We are just beginning to see the “road” where the boats are tied up - this would usually be our high water mark to give those of you who know the beat some idea of how high it has been.

At Middle there was a very productive morning followed by a slightly slower afternoon, attributed to the very warm, still and bright conditions.  However, none of it can have been too slow as they put 66 fish in the book to their 11 rods. 

Rob T with one from Clarks
It was the usual suspects of Donald and Andrew who lead the charts but Hugh L and Brian M landed 7 and 6 respectively to keep them on their toes.  As Hugh had lost 10 yesterday, each one practically at the net, this was a welcome turnaround.

It is much more overcast today and things look good.

Charlie White

Wednesday 16 May 2018

As we hoped

Yesterday was confirmation that this year is, as the Russians say about everything, “normal”.

A dropping river, fresh fish, conditions improving rapidly at Lower and a great day at Middle.

Rob T
The 11 rods at Middle Varzuga landed 95 fish for their day.  Seriously good fishing by any measure and when you learn that they all thought that they had lost more than they had landed, you know how much action they had throughout the day.

Simon R with a bar of silver
Gareth C was responsible for 14 of those, Andrew T had 13 and Simon R landed 11 from Fortress and Clark’s.

The river is falling pretty rapidly - probably about 2 feet at Lower yesterday – and it is warming up, currently it is 6 degrees but we have a really bright day today and I would expect it to be a touch higher by this evening.

Ken L on Beach at Lower
Tactics are being altered appropriately with tips of T-14/17 being replaced with T-6/10 and intermediates are coming into play.  A lot of fish were caught on shrimp type colours but dressed on 1-2 inch tubes.

Gareth C - you can really tell how well the fish have done at sea
At Lower we landed 10 fish.  Not a bonanza I know but such an improvement and it really feels as if we have a chance here now.  That was further backed up by Ken L going out before breakfast this morning and landing 1 before breakfast.  It still needs to drop off to open up more of the river to us but things are going the right way.

Jonathan B on Moscoi
A short blog today as we are jumping on the helicopter to fly to Kitza to take Ollie and Lucy over there to set up for the first clients of the season for that camp who will arrive on Saturday.

Charlie White

Tuesday 15 May 2018

Encouraging signs

Yesterday was a beautiful day to be on the river – quite cold in the morning but with bright skies and a relatively benign wind, it felt more like June than mid May.

It is hard to comprehend but the river here at Lower has now fallen 8-10 feet since we first landed on Saturday afternoon.  What is even harder to comprehend is that we probably still need it to fall a further 3-4 feet before we really see the river as we would expect in the opening week.

Tony C at Clarks
The water is not only falling but it is clearing rapidly and most importantly, we are beginning to see stretches of water that we can get in and fish rather than finding the odd spot in amongst the trees.

Whilst we only landed 2 fish at Lower we started to see a lot more and rather counter-intuitively, it was encouraging to see a seal at Beach - the bottom of our beat – knowing that it wouldn’t have bothered to come up river without something to chase.

Gareth C with a lovely fresh fish
Perhaps the most important information from yesterday was the fishing at Middle.  I went up there for dinner in stunning sunshine and saw the first Arctic Terns of the year – a sure sign that spring is here.

The rods there were clearly having a great time which is not surprising given that they had landed 57 for the day.  They all had similar tales of quiet periods followed by intense bursts of activity which is just as we would hope as it means that the fresh fish are running in pods and the run is just building.

Lucy from Kitza getting ready for a boat trip
Clarks, Peartiha and Birthday were the most productive pools and now that the ice has gone from Bear, quite a few fish were caught from there as well.

Simon R on Bear
This morning is again bright and I know that at least 5 fish have been landed on the home pools of Middle before breakfast.  It feels like our turn to catch the fish that are clearly running past us and with this dropping river, our chances are improving hourly.

Charlie White

Monday 14 May 2018

Getting there

Yesterday was a tale of two halves with Middle starting well but Lower was a struggle.

It really reminded me of 2014 when we had a huge river for the first week of the season as a result of high temperatures.  Pretty much all of the snow and ice has now gone and the tundra water is starting to be released into the river with all of the feeder streams really pumping water in.

Andrew T
Middle Varzuga is above a lot of those streams - particularly a smaller tributary called Sergo which can be very dirty when it starts to run - and as a result, in these conditions, they have much cleaner water to fish.

They landed 35 for the day which is more than a solid start.  Gareth C landed 5 from Clarks (a classic high water pool) whilst Neville A landed 4 on his first day on a Russian river.  Andrew T was the star of the day though landing 9 from Generator and Party - he was also clearly the only man to take a camera with him!
In the withies
At Lower, Jonathan B saved our blank by landing 1 whilst we also lost a couple of others.  I would tell you where he caught it but frankly there is not a definable beat at the moment and it is just a question of trying to find places to get in where we can wade for a bit.  Fishing from boats is the obvious answer but the current is too strong to risk a decent anchor hold so we can’t quite do that at the moment either.
One from Generator
The good news is that it is dropping very quickly.  It dropped around 8 inches last night which is a vast amount of water off it given how wide it currently is.  As it drops it will clear and the beat will open up which will give us a decent chance of covering the fish that are obviously running through here.
Heading out this morning - still very high
2014 was our record season in 26 years of operating up here and so we hope that the replication of the first couple of days will continue through the next 6 weeks.

Charlie White

Sunday 13 May 2018

And we’re off

As ever, it is great to be back on the Varzuga and to catch up with old friends.  Friday night in Helsinki is one of the best of the year with anticipation levels off the charts and a bubbling cauldron of excitement.
Getting on to our new heli
After a very early morning start, it was onto the charter and a smooth passage to Murmansk.  With only Lower and Middle Varzuga up and running, there were just 20 of us and so it was a very quick in and out of the airport meaning we were in the chopper by 11:45 - a record I do not expect to be broken any time soon.
Lakes still frozen but most of the snow has gone
As we flew over the tundra it was noticeable that there is very little snow left but that most of the big lakes are still covered in ice.

It was very encouraging to fly over Middle Varzuga and see that most of the banks are fairly free of ice and Generator looked fishable in more than a few places.  There is still a huge ice wall at the top of Bear which will make that difficult to access for a day or two.

Generator pool at Middle
At Lower the river is pretty much bank high and we decided to save our powder for today as wading was not a good idea with the trees and branches that you would have to walk through to get to the water.

Andrew T with the first fish of the 2018 season
However, the team at Middle went out and landed 4 fish with Andrew T being the first to kick off our season.  There are limited places at present to really access the water but with nearly all of the snow gone and temperatures around the 12 degree mark, it will drop rapidly. 

The water temperature is 4 degrees and now that most of the ice has been dragged off the banks, the river is clearing nicely. 

Donald S on Generator
We are probably within 36 hours of the “perfect” ice break and opening week river conditions and as all of the boats set off this morning there was a palpable sense of anticipation.  After months of looking forward to it, we are off.

Charlie White